By GWEN MURANAKA
The Little Tokyo Community Council celebrated the 10th anniversary of its formation at a special celebration on Sept. 28 at the Japanese American National Museum’s Aratani Central Hall.
Since its formation in 2000, the LTCC has emerged as a unifying voice in Little Tokyo, bringing together organizations and local businesses to discuss and act on important issues facing the community.
“You can really hear the voice of the community by coming to these meetings,” said Alexander Kim, representing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Former LTCC chairs Irene Hirano, Howard Nishimura, Rev. Noriaki Ito, Tom Kamei, Chris Aihara and LTCC staffer June Berk were recognized with artwork created by Hirokazu Kosaka. Maison Akira also created special pastries for the occasion.
LTCC came into existence when several community leaders, heads of non-profit organizations, business owners and residents agreed that a formal organization to deal with the ongoing issues of this historic downtown neighborhood was needed.
Those who worked on organizing the LTCC in 1999 included: Irene Hirano, then president and CEO of the Japanese American National Museum; Bill Watanabe, executive director of the Little Tokyo Service Center; Alan Kumamoto, then of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center; Frances Hashimoto of the Little Tokyo Business Association; the Rev. Grant Hagiya of Centenary United Methodist Church; Rinban Noriaki Ito of Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple; Brian Kito and Satoru Uyeda of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association; Nishimura of the Little Tokyo Lions Club; and Lisa Sugino of the Little Tokyo Service Center’s CDC.
Consul General Junichi Ihara pointed out the role LTCC has played in development issues over the past 10 years including the renovation of Japanese Village Plaza, the selection of Kaji and Associates to develop property at First and Alameda streets and the Metro Regional Connector.
“Of course the financial crisis and downturn has hit here but I’m sure Little Tokyo people are very tough and this community will thrive, as people are united and LTCC has a great role to play,” said Ihara.
Originally, over 40 groups were invited to join. LTCC’s mission “is to ensure that Little Tokyo would be a viable center for the Japanese American community and the Los Angeles Downtown community. The Council shall work to create a vision of what Little Tokyo should be in the future and serve as an advocate on behalf of the Little Tokyo community.”
Aihara said being LTCC chair is something that is just your turn to do.
“I think the real power has been the collective effort of everyone here as we continue to articulate a vision for the community,” said Aihara.
Berk said she will be leaving her work as staffer for LTCC at the end of the year. She was presented a flower lei as a thank you.
“It’s been a blast, I’m going to leave it for the young people now,” said Berk.